Tag Archives: Interstate 20

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

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Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

Orange milkweed, not globemallow

Please note the change of identification from 7:00 a.m. to 3:11 p.m.  I thought you might like the changing process of classification.

Composed at ca. 7:00 a.m. this morning, before field trip

The hunt is on again for identifying a wildflower, but this time the plant in question falls outside the ranchito and does not fit into my project of cataloging wildflowers on my land.

Yesterday afternoon at about Mile Marker 352 on the south side of Interstate 20, I saw a bush-clump of brilliant orange-scarlet flowers.  I have never seen such brilliance.  Hurrying to the ranchito and my office, I combed page-by-page my wildflower identification books and at least five websites that classify flowers.  I may have found the answer, but I cannot with a lot of confidence conclude the flowers to be the Caliche globemallow or Scarlet globemallow and I have had to reverse my classifications before — I once identified the Wine Cup as a Desert Mariposa — so, I must go up the hills to my west tomorrow and find the flowers again.  Elaine Lee and her mother have recently seen ‘neon-orange flowers’ near Putnam, Texas, on Interstate 20.

In reflecting on the Scarlet globemallow (?), I may have seen a family’s roadside memorial marker with orange plastic flowers wrapped around a cross?

Composed at ca. 3:11 p.m. after field trip to photograph

I combined a trip to the First National Bank of Santo at Mingus, Texas, with a field excursion up on top of Ranger Hill (Mile Marker 352) to photograph this flower.  I thought I had it down as a Scarlet globemallow even though I flew by the plant at 70 m.p.h.  I made two trips by the flower before I turned into the grass along side Interstate 20.  There was no access road nearby so I turned on my emergency blinkers.  I discovered five clumps of the plant and its blossoms as trucks shot by. 

Of course, I am self-conscious at the side of an Interstate taking pictures of wildflowers:  What the hey am I doing here?  A few truckers blow their horn.

I admit I am so curious about this plant and flower that I spend $8.00 in diesel fuel going up the hill from where I live to get close to this flower and photograph.  That’s ‘What the hey am I doing there.’  Secondly, what the hey is that flower doing there?  Too many questions with not enough answers, so I drive back to the ranchito, eat a ham sandwich and upload the pics and begin to compare the blossoms with Scarlet globemallow.  Totally different blossoms, totally different plants.

This search, I think, is going to go on for a long, long time.  So, I pick up my first manual, and on page 16 of Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller’s Texas Wildflowers is the Orange milkweed also known as Butterflyweed, Butterfly milkweed, Orange milkweed or Pleurisy root.  That was fast.

I have Green milkweed on the ranchito, but no Orange milkweed.  I am curious as to the medicinal properties of the Orange milkweed.  And, what is pleurisy?  I remember hearing it as a boy:  I’ve got some pleurisy this morning, Little Jack.  I think it must be some sort of joint pain?  In any case, I am confident as to the classification and it is a brilliant, showy blossom known as Orange milkweed.

Many county roads meander about my area.  I think my next trip will be up the road for 15 miles or so where my mail carrier habitually sees a bobcat cross the road.  There be things to discover and photograph up the road, up the hill and into nature’s wonders.  I do believe it so.

 

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Filed under Wild Flowers of Texas

Wind, Yucca and Wine Cups: A Texas Spring

Two days ago I and the ranchito received 0.25 inch of rain, causing bees to work hard yesterday in the front yard, gathering pollen from an unidentified burst of small white flowers and residual Gyp Indian Blankets.  I have photographed the white flowers and will integrate them into the catalog of Flowers of Flying Hat.  Cool winds blew the yucca blossoms about and I took this video of wind blowing the yucca blossoms.

Rain fell this morning at the house and my commute to Abilene (87.2 miles) was tricky and slick in my large F-250 pickup.  A Federal Express truck with two tandem trailers went off the road west of Cisco on Interstate 20 and turned over.  From what I gathered, passing by in the rain, no fires erupted.  I hope the driver escaped with little or no injury.

Elaine Lee wrote about the Wine Cups in our vicinity.  She lives in Clyde, Texas, and drives to Cisco, Texas, every work day.  Elaine is a careful observer of flora and fauna along Interstate 20, including the ducks on Baird Hill Pond.  She has noticed, as I have, the large flock of wild turkeys that infrequently browse in the field south of Baird Hill.  Elaine writes of the Wine Cups,

I’m certain you are correct about wine cup not being present last year in your location.  This year, and never before, I saw wine cup growing along the highway edge in the Interstate 20 median.  They were growing just west of Putnam, TX and stretched for probably 200 or 300 hundred yards.  Of all Texas wildflowers, I have heard they are the most difficult to become established.  I don’t know if grassfire in the median caused the heat to break their seed covering or ground heat from the drought, but whatever it was, it created a very nice showing this Spring.  In years past I have seen them along the Interstate 20 frontage road not far from my sister’s house in Dallas, but never in this area.  However, I hope they are here to stay since they add another color dimension to the Spring landscape.

In researching the Wine Cup, I have found something quite interesting.  The Wine Cup has native distribution only to southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas, south to to Louisiana and central Texas.  It has spread to other states.  Flying Hat Ranchito is located on the western periphery of central Texas.  My mailing address comes out of Mingus, Texas, but the ranchito is ten-or-so miles southeast of Mingus, back in the hills, in Sims Valley, near Hannibal, Texas.  Hannibal now has one building that used to double as a general store with a Masonic Lodge on the second floor (don’t hold me too tight on these two historical functions of the building for I need to do more research).  The Wine Cups I photographed are six miles away from Hannibal, to the north.

My plans for the weekend include further observations of Wine Cups in the grove area.  At last count, eight Wine Cup blossoms erupted.  Of yucca, some one-hundred stalks abound on the terraces.  One hundred stalks times one-hundred blossoms per stalk equals 10,000 blossoms.  Of rain, 0.25 inch two-days ago, about 0.10 inch this morning.  Of bees and critters?  I will count them another day.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

From the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I quote,

Callirhoe digitata Nutt.

Finger poppy-mallow, Poppy mallow, Standing winecup, Wine cup, Winecup

Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

USDA Symbol: CADI2

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

The wine cup is a perennial growing 8–20 inches tall, depending on moisture and soil, with gray-green stems. Leaves are alternate, basal leaves having stems about as long as the leaf; leaves are coarsely lobed or scalloped to deeply 5-lobed. There are few leaves on the upper part of the stem. Flowers have 5 petals, cup-shaped at first and opening out nearly flat as the flower matures. They are violet to red-violet, sometimes white, 1–2 inches across. The stamens and pistil form a conelike structure in the center of the flower.

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Filed under Succulents, Wild Flowers of Texas

Flowers of Flying Hat (6-8): Sow thistle is not a weed.

Far field clouds, March 2012.

6. False Garlic, Crow Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve), March 2012.

This False Garlic flowers early and there are several colonies clustered together throughout the ranchito.  This False Garlic is closed and due to the rains and cold yesterday and today, I do not have an open flower to illustrate — but, I shall.  This is found in the lane to County Road 114, and other colonies are about the gate between the arena and the grove pasture.

7. Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper), March 2012.

Sow Thistle appears to be a weed, but it is not.  Authorities claim the milk of this plant relieves eye ailments.  I wonder if I could apply this to my left eye?  I think not.  I’ll rely upon Dr. Callanan, but then again…. This appeared one afternoon and then its flowers have closed.  This Sow Thistle inhabits the disturbed soil underneath the live oak tree to the southeast of the house.  I have read much about the categorization of ‘weed’ versus ‘plant.’  The term ‘weed’ seems culture-specific, a term of dislike, marginal.  Goats, sheep and cattle eat this with relish.  To them, it seems, this is a plant, not an obnoxious weed.  One person’s plant is another person’s weed?

8. Unknown.

These little-bitty guys erupt on the top terrace and emerge as small, almost unnoticeable flowers. As of today, I have failed to find their name, and I also need a closeup to gain greater resolution of their attributes. Today it is raining and the blossoms are closed.

More Violet ruellia, violet wild petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).

This is a another photograph of violet wild petunia, previously identified.  It has erupted in large numbers along Interstate 20 from Mingus to Abilene.

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Light abstraction at night on I-20

Tail lights and headlights on Interstate 20 near Brazos River (November 2011).

Last Friday night I drove back from Fort Worth, Texas, to the ranchito and took this picture on a hill with an iPhone 3G above the Brazos River as the traffic passed east to west, west to east, on Interstate 20, the major route between Fort Worth and Abilene.

The shaky photograph portrays tail lights and headlights.  The red lights are vehicles heading east, people on errands and business, burning oil to illuminate the night and find their way.  The white lights are vehicles driving west.  A mile to the east (to the left of the white lights in the photograph), the traffic bogged down on the Interstate because of construction with stop-and-go for almost twenty miles due to two-lane passage.  My driving west ( to the right of the photograph), did not slow down that much.

At times out here in the country on the interstate, I can see 20-mile stretches of cars and trucks driving the highway, going to their appointed rounds to deliver goods and visit friends.

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Filed under Texas

Interstate 20 Kestrel

Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius, from Peterson's Field Guide)

In my long commute to Abilene from Mingus, Texas (87.2 miles), I see flora and fauna of Cross Timbers and west Texas plains along Interstate 20.  The Clear Fork of the Brazos River is the major river in the area, meandering north of the interstate at a distance I cannot discern from the highway, but within sight of the wind turbines that I see turning swiftly with the wind.

Between Abilene and Clyde, Texas, I have seen for several years a particular type of hovering bird above the interstate that dives down, usually on the median, to take a field mouse.  The angle of the sun has not been right for me to identify the bird nor have I minimal traffic to definitely type the predator.  (Trucks carry a lot of cargo on Interstate 20 between El Paso and Dallas-Fort Worth and must be respected.)  Yesterday, however, at the same spot (about a two-hundred-yard splotch) that I have seen these birds over the years, I was able to identify a Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius), as my elusive companion for the commute.

The Sparrow Hawk or “American Kestrel” flashed a rufous back, wings spread with blue-gray color and a rufous tail, signifying a male, as it dove onto the median.  Returning home, driving east, the sun on my right side at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon, I saw brightly illuminated the plumage and color of this beautiful hawk.  The sighting occurred within five seconds, but I will remember this Interstate 20 Kestrel for a long, long time.

* * *

How can we ever think ourselves alone when in the absence of our own kind we have kestrel, oak and four-legged companions about?  But we do feel estranged.  I have and will feel alone again.  Yet, so, and despite it all, our senses become filled with flapping wings, stamping hooves and trees swaying in the wind among ten thousand sights and sounds.  Our yearning for connectedness disappears with a self-loss in nature’s rhythm, even along the interstate.  It is a kind of sacred hoop, Black Elk once said.

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Filed under Birds

The other side of nature

The other side of nature. A rather intense blizzard, Christmas time, Texas High Plains, 2009.

We turn our heads, even raise our hand to eye so as to blind us to the other side of nature — fierce cold.

Winter storms force cattle to turn their backsides to the wind and drift — drift until warm temperatures encounter their travel.  But during the worst of blizzards, cattle bunch into box canyons, fences and fast-flowing streams that terminate their travel, even their lives.  The worst of western blizzards came in 1888, destroying like a monster from Hades the free range of the American West that never arose again.

The photograph inserted shows the blizzard of 2009 that stranded motorists and brought out the National Guard to the Texas High Plains.  Brenda and I drove through the storm.  Livestock perished, not like 1888, but many perished despite the efforts of cattlemen and helicopters dropping hay from the heavens, manna for cattle.  We put chains on the pickup in Roscoe and took them off in Slaton, slowly making our way to Lubbock, then Santa Fe.

I drive at least two times, sometimes four times a week, between Mingus, Texas, and Abilene, a journey of 87.2 miles from my ranch house to Cisco College.  As I travel, I see good and warm things, but I also see a tableau of death, regardless of cold Winter or warm Spring.  I do not write about the tooth and claw — only one post in a year have I written about the other side of nature — because it is most unpleasant and I have been taught by my family to look the other way, grit my teeth, bow my back and work on, carry on, even pick up sticks and rocks from the corral to forget and cover the other side of nature, raising a hand to the eye.

I was taught by my family to keep death and blood away, the least semblance of pain is to be endured against happiness and pleasure receding too quickly in our lives.  I learned in college that my family’s philosophy was stoicism, remembering vaguely the word, but daily that conduct.  I write this blog about nature and how she covers us second by second, year by year, like a quilt on a cold winter’s night, a softness and heaviness at the same time, installing comfort into our harried house.  The warmth erases pain and anguish.  But, there is another side that we all must endure.

There is an extraction, a debt, that inevitably must be paid.  As I drive the 87.2 miles to Abilene and back to Mingus, I see, even hear the debt being paid in blood and tissue.  How many deer, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, dogs, cats, field mice, ravens, hawks, snakes, fox, moths and monarch butterflies can I continue to see killed along the roads?  I see the remains; I am even a part of making the remains.  The only debt I hear paid is the lovely monarch butterfly that hits my windshield, leaving a yellow stain that I cannot wash off until the day ends.  The monarch strikes my windshield and I cringe.  I think, quite often, that my salary, forcing my travel to Abilene, is not worth the agony and groans that I feel and emit as I see and hear the other side of nature.

I write of horses prancing, birds singing, dogs playing and armadillos browsing with slow gait, rooting and eating contentedly.  Then, why write this post, why bring up the other side of nature?  Death and blood and stench of flesh?  I’m not sure, but to bring up the other side of nature seems to balance my exuberance downward.  Downward to the way-things-are and away from illusion, closer to truth.  My work is affected.  As I drive the interstate to Abilene I see the panic of deer running across the road, jumping the fence to safety, to daily heaven.  I walk into class to lecture and the gravitas of it all weighs me down to essentials:  why are we here, what are we doing, what are the models we want to imitate, what are the models we wish to avoid?  I don’t waste time for I am doing my best to answer those questions for that day.

As I come back home to Mingus, I think:  I am here to groom my horse, play with my dog, feed my cats, tend my pastures, grow plants for monarchs to feed upon, protect the deer in my domain and love my life and wife.  Taking my hand from my eyes, I see life as gift once more as it is balanced against the other side.

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Notes:

I often have Brenda read my stuff before I publish it.  She read this and said, “Very good, but very heavy.  They’re going to say you haven’t had your anti-depressant.”   We laughed.  She understood what I was trying to say in the post.  I told her that I have been wanting to write this post for a long time.  One of the reasons I support wildlife corridors is the death I see on my travels to Abilene.  There’s a place along Baird Hill that needs protection.  I see drivers trying to avoid the wildlife.  Many succeed in avoiding the critters.  Drivers aren’t all talking on the cell phone.

http://twitter.com/sage2m

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Filed under Baird Hill Pond, Deer, Dogs, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance

More Santa Fe Blizzard Express

Hermleigh, Texas, December 24, 2009

Hermleigh, Texas, December 24, 2009

Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Jack Matthews, Roscoe, Texas, December 24, 2009

Farm Fields, Slaton, Texas, December 24, 2009

We had been keeping up with weather forecasts before we left at 5:00 a.m. CST from our home in Mingus, Texas.  The weather forecasts on December 23, indicated that the Arctic snow front would pass through the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, bypassing our route on Interstate 20 to Sweetwater, Roscoe north to Lubbock, then Clovis, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe.

On December 24, we left Mingus, temperature 37 degrees.  We first encountered snowflakes in Eastland, Texas, but before that, only minutes out of Ranger, Texas, a Federal Express double-trailer had overturned, indicating, perhaps, high cross winds.

The snowflakes would not subside until we reached Lubbock at 2:00 p.m.

We did not encounter snow accumulating on the road until Sweetwater where we made a rest stop.  At Sweetwater, the temperature was below 30 degrees.  By the time we reached the turnoff to Roscoe, Texas, then north to Lubbock, the snow had accumulated on the highway and the wind blew the snow to a white out for a few seconds every so often.  The turn off at Roscoe was treacherous because a white out suddenly occurred at the intersection and I had to “feel” the turn for a few seconds.  At that point, I decided to go into Roscoe and put the cable-chains on the back wheels of the F-250. We also considered staying put and waiting the storm out and Highway Department to clear the roads.

The F-250 I drive is a 2003, the last year they made the 7.3 liter diesel engine.  Our F-250 is maintained precisely to the Ford Motor Company’s guidelines, plus a few of our own.  As a consequence, we have 240,000 plus miles and it pulls a twenty-six foot tack and stock trailer or a flatbed with a DX-55 Case tractor.  We had a full fuel tank, blankets, phones, and food and water.

At Roscoe, I put the chains on and we ventured out again on the highway to Lubbock.  At Hermleigh, we stopped at an Allsup’s for a rest stop but the convenience store was closed.  Our daughter in Lubbock called by cell and said that there was a thirty-two car pileup at Post, so we first decided to go from Snyder to Lamesa, then Santa Fe by various routes, but the latest reports at Allsup’s from truck drivers indicated that the wreck had been cleared.

The wind turbines at Roscoe and Hermleigh were hidden by the snowstorm, but occasionally the wind would die down and we saw the giant turbines, less than a quarter-of-a-mile away, slowly turning in the storm.  Nothing else but snow and the turbines.  We maintained a long distance between ourselves and the car or truck in front of us to give us time to stop.  Yet, we did not have the respect from cars in back of us.  Truckers, however, gave us space.  Since we had chains and traction, I could ease over and let cars and trucks pass us.  Several cars that passed us we later saw in the ditch or median.

Our speed could not exceed 30 m.p.h. with chains.  Finally, at Post, Texas, we stopped and I took off the chains.  Between Post and Lubbock, we were diverted by the Highway Department to tour along the access roads and avoid going over bridges.  In Slaton, a U.S. Postal Service truck was blocking the overpass because it had no traction and was stalled.  We saw several National Guard medical vehicles headed south from where we had come.  We later found out that Governor Rick Perry had called out fifty National Guardsmen to assist in rescue efforts.

From Post, then, we had no chains, but the Highway Department had cleared one lane by the early afternoon on the highway.

At Lubbock, we visited with our relatives and left Lubbock at 4:00 p.m. for Santa Fe, arriving at 9:30 p.m. MST.

Notes

“Postscript by Brenda:  Jack’s writings depict the experience perfectly.  What cannot be conveyed completely was the stress and emotions of the eight-hour drive to Lubbock…but, the picture of him above portrays his attentiveness.  I was never terribly worried because I knew he was an excellent driver and near obsessive over safety.  Yes, I wish we had left a day earlier, but I am happy to be in Santa Fe!  Brenda Matthews, 12.28.2009.”

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Filed under Adventure

Baird Hill Ducks and Mount Kilimanjaro

[I wrote this post on November 3, 2009.  I have been writing about the Baird Hill Pond lately and decided to bring this forward to the front page and make it public.]

This morning at about 7:15 a.m. CST, I spied a flock of ducks on the Baird Hill Pond.  This is my first trip by the pond since last Thursday (no ducks then) and with daylight savings time over, the dawn’s light illuminated the pond.  From my pickup, I saw a flock of about fifteen ducks, paddling in the middle of the pond.  Their presence shows that the pond sustains life.  Whether or not the pond gains additional flocks remains to be seen, but the pond may be reconstructing itself.

Mt. Kilimanjaro snow cap is melting fast.  Whether this is the result of global warming is unknown, but suspected.  Arctic Ocean is opening up, Antarctica’s ice shelves are breaking up, and second homes (MacMansions) disturb the Taos Indian annual rabbit hunt.  Baird Hill pond is losing its vegetation, but ducks are there today.  How many more canaries have to die before we stop the misuse of our resources?

New York Times article on Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Notes:

Photo by Stephen Morrison on European Pressphoto Agency, as cited in The New York Times link above.

I think it was Borges that wrote once that a dead jaguar was found way up the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, beyond his or her range by several thousand feet.  Why?  What so possessed the jaguar to seek the mountain, going beyond what was familiar?  Borges or whomever it was wrote a short explication of their theory.  I have mine and I shall post about it one day.

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Filed under Ducks, Life Out of Balance

West Cut Pond on Baird Hill

Since 1998, I have looked at a beautiful stock pond along the West Cut of Baird Hill, on Interstate 20, near Baird, Texas, as I have driven to work in Abilene from Mingus, Texas.

The pond has deteriorated in health.  It was a pond that had rushes of cattails, deep-green sturdy stalks, three to four feet high, lining the pond all the way around except for a few places where cattle could water or a tree had fallen.  Ducks would fly in at the first cold snap in October and not leave until February or March.

The pond is set among hills on three sides, a spring-fed creek empties into the pond.  The interstate highway at the West Cut blockades the downstream portion of the pond, creating a kind of highway dam.

Last year and the year before, power poles with transmission lines as big as your arm were erected above the pond and on the hills to the north of the interstate in order to carry electricity from wind farms on the north and east side of Abilene.

When the transmission lines were nearly constructed, all the the green rushes along the pond died.

The pond lost water and is down about a foot or two.  At first, I speculated that the reeds had died as the result of some natural cycle, but that was not correct.  The rushes died because of contaminants from the transmission line construction, road construction for the power lines, the wind farm construction, or a combination of all three factors.  I did not take a water sample.  Not my land.  But, the owner of the ranch was just as surprised as I was about the change in the pond.  The reeds have not reproduced.

So, we have more electricity that is suppose to be clean.  It is.  But, in the method of setting up clean energy, nature is destroyed.  The pond is dying.

I will continue to observe the pond and will take photographs from the highway.  Hopefully, nature will resurge again along the banks of the pond.  And, I wonder if the ducks will stay long?  Will they even stop?

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Notes:

July 25, 2010, update: The pond has remained unchanged.  The color of the water has deepened to a blue-green and is not brown or brackish any longer.  The reeds still have not replenished.  I will attempt to take some photographs from the interstate for the record.  To connect the transmission line construction and the death of the pond is correlative.  I may be completely wrong in my hypothesis about cause and effect.  More proof is needed.

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Filed under Ducks